Part 1: Leaping Antelope or Flying Squirrel ?
The Game. Quite the subtle sport, equipped with silent bone-cracking moments where indeed mind over matter is, well - only as good as hand-eye coordination in that instant. Little birds dressed in white, twittering about the lawn. Although, truth be told, the players vary drastically from leaping antelope to flying squirrels, displaying varying dimensions of body, mind, and spirit with tremendous ease and grace in this unlikely group.
I mean, each player has a different thing going. Getting to know just a few of the angles sitting there, totally ignorant of what I was watching, underneath a white overhang set up to protect the innocent as the day before had been garnished with rain, I heard every sort of thing one might imagine. From one gentleman's loss of $1.2 million - leaving him with $4,000 and the black leer of depression staring at him - what does he do? He goes to a bar to take his mind off things, where he meets a gent who offers to teach him croquet.
Wasn't I talking about getting ahead of opportunity a little earlier? Well, sometimes you've got to get behind opportunity as well. Drink her, suckle her, snort her - you never know where she'll turn up. Another chap is an eighteen year-old aficionado, world champion. And dedicatedly receives straight A's in school, managing to stay so focussed on his game he goes home daily after school and practices on the lawn his home is so handily equipped with.
Another gent, a wine maker in Napa Valley, mentioned early on that he'd gone out drinking the previous night with his son - so I inquired immediately as to his son's age. Which turned out to be the same as mine. Not only was I to find out a thing or two about this game, but I was to set myself up on a potential blind date as well. At least, I have his number now and his father has mine as well, to pass onto his son if he sees fit. You never know once the number has passed from your hand on - which way fate will blow it. Yes, fate is a funny friend.
Of course, one cannot leave out the "Bad Boy" in the group - a man approaching sixty who so delicately displays this motto on the seat of his pants, in blazing red letters against the traditional whites, really packing a wallop. This man admittedly has carved out his own niche, in croquet - which he came to from his earnest love of baseball. The Bad Boy never even introduced himself by name, but proceeded to share a bit about his life philosophies, managing, seemingly - to still be spurred by faith rather than comfort and security. Something that always impresses me, especially when most people getting on in years are accumulating barnacles on their backsides.
Yes, I'd been told to watch out for this one, sitting abreast the sidelines. I'd been told the "Bad Boy" was pure predator, and that being a woman myself, I should expect the inevitable strike. Lunging to the opportunity like a vulture to the blood. And indeed, as I sat there taking in random bits of commentary, laughing and straddling the wooden bench that was my perch, the Bad Boy came over and said behind me to the back of my neck "Are you the hyena?" A direct reference to the timbre of my laugh, which admittedly is abundant in...well - high pitched shock value. He later told me that despite his general ability to concentrate and his daily practice of meditation, he couldn't shut my laugh out. Ahhhh, a useful weapon.
Yes, I will say that none of it was particularly as I'd imagined. Besides perhaps the actual process of mallet hitting ball on green grass beneath cloudy but still sunny skies. This was easy to anticipate. And although I still do not have a clear sense of the game's actual rules - I have the suggestion from the gentleman who took up the offer at the bar to learn croquet, that I myself pick up a mallet and give it a go. And perhaps I shall.
Part 2: Once again and a little to the left in the dark, please
Have you ever witnessed the absurdity of grown men who are very grown indeed, running about in the near dark with very firm nipples made quite forward by chilled air - scrambling politely after some small balls, wearing white so they are that much more illuminated and ghostly in the shedding day turning to dark night? Well, I never had, 'til the curiosity once again got the better of me and I had to sneak onto the sidelines for the last few hours of the final games.
Today I was serious and quiet, determined not to distract the players. The tension was palpable. It was magnificent to get a bit of the bite that makes these people compete. Each move having the potential to change the game's outcome so drastically. I'd ask the players themselves about the score, and they themselves couldn't tell me.
Despite having ferociously bitten his tongue while chomping a bit of sandwich early in the day, (no laughing matter when you stop to consider that the tongue has literally hundreds of nerve endings) Ren on the Arizona team was able to carry through and win his game. Every minute I could feel the shift of morale between the teams. Back and forth. Forth and back. A bit like emotional Ping-Pong.
I was truly impressed by Charles' ability to relax in spite of the pressure. It seemed that Erv's hit-in after time earlier in the day had truly re-instilled confidence in the California team. Unfortunately, as I witnessed (and paid homage to) these men's brave and heroic antics, I was completely unaware of the actions taking place on the other lawn.
There was the suggestion of calling it a tie, but that was just so darn unfulfilling. We wanted victory or defeat, dammit!! Not wimpy equality. The Bad Boy out there just going for it - in the near total dark I don't even know what he was doing but it was darn impressive!!!
And Wayne on the other lawn. I was now standing in between the lawns so I could peer at both games. Even after Michael "Bad Boy" Mehas had finished his game - Wayne kept hitting away. Adrian - the resident Brit who had been invited to play with the Californians - was contemplating moving his motorcycle so his headlights could add a little light to the subject. And I just kept trying to figure out what was going on in the midst of the darkening chaos.
By golly - we won! That was what was going on! All that determination and steady under pressure and you can do it ol' boy - really pulled it together, because by golly even in the freezing cold with just the mild hint of where the balls were, lit by moonlight - ol' Caly came in and brought home the winning team! It nearly brought tears to my eyes to see how absolutely thrilled dear Carl the Captain really was. Good game, men!
And thank you for the absolutely unique experience of being invited to take just a tiny wedge out of your piece of the pie. Bon appetit!!!
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